New York City is home to a lot of languages! Sometimes a sizeable language community can live on just a couple of floors of an apartment building. Dr Ross Perlin is working to find and promote minority languages in NYC. He's the co-founder of the Endangered Language Alliance, and author of Language City: The Fight to Preserve Endangered Mother Tongues in New York. Ross joins us for this episode. Intro: 0:36 News: 8:13 Related or Not: 32:52 Interview with Ross Perlin: 43:12 Words of the...
Published 04/19/24
Language authorities. Right-wing politicians. White supremacists and feminists. What do they have in common? They're all working together to fight gender-inclusive language. But why bring language into this fight? What extra does this give them? Dr Caitlin Green and Maureen Kosse join us to explain on this big episode.
Published 04/01/24
In honour of Grammar Day (4 March), we are joined live by special guest Ellen Jovin, who regularly dispenses grammar advice and wisdom from the Grammar Table. Now she's testing our grammatical mettle and answering our questions.  YouTube video of this episode: https://youtu.be/C1l8Alk3Ptc?si=7pnGnuKcy9YY-mhR
Published 03/02/24
What are your eyes doing when you describe a scene? It may depend on your language.  New research from Dr Rachel Nordlinger and team shows that we do a lot of planning and scanning very quickly, and it follows the requirements of our language. She's studied Murrinhpatha, an Australian Aboriginal language, to see what its speakers do.
Published 02/22/24
We’re talking words, and no one has a way with words like Grant Barrett. He’s here to tell us what it’s like at Dictionary.com, and what went down at the annual American Dialect Society Words of the Year 2023 vote. And perhaps he can help forestall Hedvig’s planned mass human extinction. Also: World Endangered Writing Day is upon us! It’s a fantastic initiative, and author Tim Brookes of Endangered Alphabets is here to lay out the case for preserving writing systems.
Published 01/21/24
The public has voted, and a winner has been decided! We're looking all the words chosen by the various dictionary bodies, and counting down our Words of the Week of the Year.  And there's a very special interview with author, blogger, activist, and inventor of words Cory Doctorow.
Published 12/24/23
What is a woman? Or a man? Or a chair, or a sandwich? Or anything, really? "Gender critical" people are making language into a vector to attack the rights of trans people. They treat categories like man and woman as binary and obvious. But cognitive linguistics has a response, in the form of a new paper in Nature Human Behaviour. Are categories concrete, or are they mental, social, or something else? How do we categorise objects at all? Author Dr Andrew Perfors brings the science on this...
Published 12/01/23
Who wrote the Oxford English Dictionary? Sure, James Murray had a very important role as editor, but a small army of volunteers submitted hundreds of thousands of words on slips of paper to get the project off the ground. What were their stories, and why did they have such a relentless sense of mission for the OED? Dr Sarah Ogilvie is sharing her research into their lives and times, and it's startling and wondrous. She's a lexicographer and author of The Dictionary People: The Unsung Heroes...
Published 11/04/23
Our accents are great! They represent our origins, our languages, our community, and our identity. But too many of us feel like we can't speak with our authentic voice. Accent prejudice is real. Linguist and author Dr Rob Drummond joins us to explain all about accent and accentism. He's the author of a new book You're All Talk. And Dr Robbie Love is joining us with his research about how the word f**k is changing in the speech of British teens. Spicy!
Published 10/02/23
Our patrons are joining us live to give us their news, words, and stories. That's right, it's a Potluck episode! What's a "girl dinner"? What's the other name of India? And how is AI helping translate an ancient language? Thanks to all our great patrons, and especially those who joined us for this episode.
Published 09/16/23
Women's bodies, women's occupations, women's experiences. So often in history, the discourse about women has been by men, about women. And that means that women's words have been lost. Dr Jenni Nuttall has charted the lost history of women's words in her new book Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women's Words, and she joins us for this episode.
Published 09/02/23
Listeners have once again sent us some great questions, and we have answers! Why do we TALK SHIT and not SPEAK SHIT? Do we KEEP OUT, or STAY OUT? Why are so many acronyms three letters long? How do we break young people out of the prescriptivist mindset? Isn’t “folk etymology” just… etymology? Can you think of any anagrams that are also synonyms? Plus our favourite game, Related or Not!
Published 08/13/23
Daniel Midgley, Ben Ainslie, and Hedvig Skirgård
Published 07/26/23
For decades, forensic linguists have been pushing back on harmful language ideologies, and fighting for better representation for linguistic minorities in the legal domain. We're talking to three legendary linguists who have written the definitive record of how the discipline has developed in Australia. Also: why do male characters get more dialogue in video games? And how can this situation improve? The authors of a pioneering new study share their insights.
Published 06/29/23
How do we make the discipline of linguistics — and our world — a more just, diverse, and equitable place? Why does our personal history and personal perspective matter when doing science? How do we build community? And what happens if we do nothing? This episode is really kind of a mini-conference. We found some new work from linguists we admire, so we put out the word to our patrons and piled into a room! We're hearing work from Dr Aris Clemons, Dr Caitlin Green, and Dr Rikker Dockum on...
Published 06/15/23
Why does everyone say OOO! when they see someone fall down? Why do we say YUM when we feed a baby? And what's the deal with fillers like UM? For this episode we're talking about non-lexical vocalisations with Dr Eleonora Beier and Dr Emily Hofstetter.  Also: linguists are diving into Grambank, a database with detailed information about grammatical features in over 2,500 languages. With its release, we're talking to project leaders Dr Russell Gray and our own Dr Hedvig Skirgård. Also,...
Published 05/27/23
How can you tell if a news story is intended to deceive? In one well-known case of journalistic deception, there were tells that required machine learning to trace. We’re talking to author and computational linguist Jack Grieve about his new book, The Language of Fake News.
Published 05/15/23
We're going deep into our Mailbag, and we're going to answer all your questions. Why do we say "here you go" when we give something to someone? Why can we reduce something to /sʌmʔ/? The thing is is, there are two IS there. Why? Some contractions seem to've appeared, and they look strange in writing. What other ones're out there?
Published 04/25/23
When language was innovated, what happened next? How did it change our abilities — and our responsibilities — to each other? Dr Nick Enfield shares ideas from his new book, Consequences of Language. Plus: Have large language models (like GPT) disproven a key tenet of the innateness of language? Dr Morten Christiansen takes us through the implications for nativism and language learning.
Published 04/03/23
Here’s an entire show, curated by one of our most prolific contributors — newly minted speechie PharaohKatt! She’s got news. She’s got words. She tries to stump us on Related or Not. She even teaches us how to roll our R’s. Wow. But best of all, she answers all our questions about speech and language pathology.
Published 03/25/23
For this special live LingFest23 episode, we’ll again be voting on tricky language issues, and our votes will be binding on all English users for all time because that’s how language works. If you had to walk 10 kilometres “there and back”, how far away is the place? How many holes does a straw have? And if “Floyd and the chickens are outside”, is Floyd also a chicken? And many more!
Published 03/02/23
We all have freedom of expression, but what are its limits — social and legal? And how have governments tried to curtail it? We’re talking through the implications of free speech with Dennis Baron. He’s the author of You Can’t Always Say What You Want: The Paradox of Free Speech.  
Published 02/16/23
The American Dialect Society Word of the Year has been chosen — and it’s a wonderful and terrible pick! Depending on who you’re talking to. In this episode, we’re talking about -USSY and all the words. And we’re getting to our Mailbag, with our most intriguing research project ever: can you spot the pattern in the way Ben pronounces EITHER and NEITHER? Is there one?
Published 01/27/23
In what was meant to be a casual chat, cognitive scientist Dr Mark Ellison answers galaxy-brain-level questions about how language works. Why aren't we more efficient with language? How do we know when something has gone wrong in a conversation? Why don't we just talk in a flat monotone all the time? Why do fairy tales start a certain way? Why is it so tiring to speak another language? Fortunately, he helps us keep our eyes on the ball for this episode.
Published 01/03/23